Toni Collette’s back
THE WAY, WAY BACK
Stars: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, AnnaSophia Robb
Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
YOU’VE this seen this movie before. This is a coming- of- age movie. All that is missing is a narrator at the end to tell us “and after that summer, things would never be the same again”.
While this sticky- sweet sentiment is all The Way, Way Back has to say as a movie, it is conveyed with such a perfect blend of regret, hope and conviction that it just cannot sound clichéd.
The lost boy due to find himself in this poignant comedy- drama is Duncan ( Liam James), a teen so painfully awkward he looks like an extra from a Diary of a Wimpy Kid sequel.
Duncan has been forced at metaphorical gunpoint to spend the summer holidays with his recently divorced mum, Pam ( Toni Collette), at her new boyfriend’s beach house.
It shouldn’t be so miserable an experience on paper. But that boyfriend Trent ( Steve Carell) is a total creep, semi- subtly bullying Duncan when Pam is looking the other way.
All that keeps Duncan going is a chance meeting with Owen ( Sam Rockwell), a dedicated lifelong slacker who has somehow found himself running the local water park.
Did someone say father figure? It is not so cut- and- dried as that when it comes to Owen. He is not the kind of guy capable of setting an example to anyone.
However, he can sense the overpowering angst that is zapping Duncan into submission, and does his best to cut the kid a break.
Owen invents a job for Duncan at the water park. In the weeks that follow, the boy’s fellow employees become the family he may not have always wanted, but certainly needs right now.
There are no big performances or heavy moments in The Way, Way Back. Writingdirecting team Nat Faxon and Jim Rash ( winners of an Oscar for their screenplay for The Descendants) keep the tone of their work carefully positioned between funny- bittersweet and funny- sad.
It is a difficult zone for a movie to land in – Little Miss Sunshine remains the most successful example in recent memory – but an accomplished acting ensemble makes it look deceptively easy.
Carell works wilfully against type to serve up the most unlikable character he has played. Collette is her usual consistent self and youngster James anchors the film’s leading role with quiet authority after an uncertain start.
However, the path to complete enjoyment of The Way, Way Back is comprehensively cleared by Rockwell, who captures the film’s winning combo of quick- fire wit and slowburning heart in his every scene.